Plot: Sequel to The Western Way. 1876, New York City. When Sheriff Katherine Beckett leaves Colorado Springs to take reporter, and aspiring novelist, Richard Castle up on his offer to visit him and his daughter in New York City, she finds herself in a whole new world. A world with new rules, hidden meanings and key players she didn't know existed. For some, the backhanded cattiness of society circles would be too much to handle, for Kate Beckett it is merely a challenge to be met head on.
** If you haven't read The Western Way, I would HIGHLY recommend you go back and read that one first, or you may find yourself extremely lost.** :)
Disclaimer: They are not mine, I just like to dress them up in cowboy boots and take them out to play every once in a while. ;)
A/N: All of your support, encouragement and excitement inspired me to write, and to write fast. So, without further ado, here is chapter one!
City Slicker- a person with the values generally associated with urban dwellers, typically regarded as unprincipled and untrustworthy.
Katherine Beckett was at a loss for words when she stepped off of the train and onto the platform at Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Hundreds of people bustled around her and she was forced to move quickly until she was standing by a wall, so as to not get run over. There were men and women dressing in worn cotton clothing, much like the normal fashions in Colorado Springs, yelling for children and piling luggage to be loaded onto the trains. Then, there were men and women in fine formal wear- fluffy dresses and suits with top hats- watching while servants and platform works loaded the luggage for them. There were children in rags begging for money and there were children in their Sunday best ordering around nannies. Piles of chests and suitcases waited to be picked up by their owners in the middle of the platform. A hungry dog barked in the distance and Kate drew her duster tighter around her, crossing her arms around her middle to hold it in place. She grasped the letter with the Castles' address on it in her right hand and had her drawstring duffle bag firmly clasped in her left.
Kate inched along the wall, pausing briefly every few seconds to avoid being run into by other patrons, until she was able to slip through the nearest doorway into the station house. Kate stopped suddenly the moment she stepped through the doorway, causing a well-dressed man to curse at her after running into her back. She mumbled a vacant apology as she continued to stare up in wonder, turning in a circle to take in the full effect of the morning light streaming through the stained glass window into the station. The ornate ceiling towered over her, stories above. Little strands of color danced on walls and the floor, bouncing off of people and wrapping around their souls.
It was the single most breathtakingly beautiful thing Kate Beckett had seen in her life.
Kate stood staring up the steps to the townhome in front of her. The fluttering nervousness that had plagued her belly since the train had pulled into Grand Central was now churning into full nausea. It had taken a month for the train to make the trip from Colorado Springs to New York City- a trip that was supposed to take no more than a week- due to engine problems and freak snowstorms. That combined with the two month it took Castle's package to make it from New York to Colorado in the first place, left a three month gap between the initial invitation and her arrival. What if they didn't want her here anymore? A lot could happen in three months. What if they had taken her unintentional silence as a rejection? Kate bit down on her lower lip and awkwardly shifted from one foot to the other as she looked down at the crumpled letter, checking the address one last time. She had come all of this way; she couldn't turn back now.
Her fingers were numb from the cold and from being clenched so tightly at her side, as she fumbled with the doorknocker, banging it stiffly against the door twice before letting her hand fall back to her side. She shifted again, staring down at her battered boots as she waited for someone to answer the door. After a few seconds, she heard a scuffling on the other side and looked up in time to see it swing open. She started as she found herself face to face with a beautiful blonde woman.
"Can I help you?" The woman asked, as she looked Kate up and down with very thinly veiled disgust.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I must have the wrong home. I was looking for Richard and Alexis Castle," Kate stuttered after a moment, tucking a clump of hair behind her ear and giving the woman an apologetic smile.
"No," the woman called after her, as Kate turned to leave. "You have the correct home. May I ask who is calling?"
Kate raised a single eyebrow. She really didn't like the woman's tone. "Kate. I'm a friend of Castle's."
"You are a friend of Richard's?" The woman questioned incredulously, continuing at Kate's nod of affirmation. "Well, he isn't here at the moment, he is at the office. I can tell him you stopped by."
"I'm sorry," Kate interrupted the woman's dismissal. "Who are you exactly?"
The woman gave Kate another once over before crossing her arms over her chest. "I am Gina Cowell, Richard's fiancé."
Kate felt her stomach drop along with her jaw. Fiancé? Castle was engaged? Kate's brain had almost managed to form a coherent thought that could be turned into a sentence when a very unladylike squeal emanated from inside the house. Gina's heads turned at the sound and Kate was able to peer around the other woman in time to see Alexis Castle, dressed in a very fluffy pink dress, bounding towards her. Kate dropped her bag onto the step and held out her arms just in time to catch Alexis in a tight embrace. Kate even found herself a little light headed at how tightly the girl was holding on to her as they spun in a circle on the small stoop of the townhouse.
"Sheriff Beckett, you came!" Alexis exclaimed as she released Kate from the hug and proceeded to drag her, past Gina, and into the entryway of the house. Kate reached back and managed to grab her bag before she was dragged away by the bouncing young woman.
"I was starting to think you weren't going to come!" Alexis continued as she stripped off and hung up Kate's hat and coat. "Father sent you that letter month's ago and we hadn't heard anything back since. But you did come. You're here! There is so much I need to tell you." Alexis paused briefly and pulled Kate into another tight hug, her nose crinkling a bit as she pulled back.
"No offense, but you sort of smell. Do you want to take a bath? I know that train ride is not fun. I think I sat in the bath for a whole hour when we got back to the city last year. Did you just get into town? You can stay here. We have a spare room, even though Grandmother moved in with us just last month. Father won't mind, I am sure."
"Alexis," Kate interrupted the girl, chuckling at her excited ramblings. Alexis quieted, still bouncing in place with a giant grin adorning her face. Kate felt her own face crack into an oversized smile. The girl's excitement was infectious.
"How about you ask your father first before you invite me to stay. I know certain considerations need to be take into account," Kate continued, her eyes flickering over to Gina, who was still standing by the door, looking somewhat stunned at the events of the last few minutes. Alexis's eyes widened briefly in understanding, before schooling her features and Kate continued.
"I came as soon as I got the invitation, Alexis, I promise. Due to the storms, it took two months for the package to arrive in Colorado and it took another month for the train to make the journey here. I never meant to make you think I forgot about you." Kate's flickered over to Gina once again before she lowered her head and answered Alexis's question quietly. "And, yes, a bath would be nice."
Kate let out a soft, content sigh as she sunk down into the steaming hot water. While, during stops on the train, she had managed to gather up some snow to melt in order to wash her face and the essential areas, she hadn't had a proper bath since leaving Colorado Springs a month earlier. Kate wrinkled her nose and grimaced at the layer of dirt, grime and oil that began to form on top of the bath water. She may live in a place where it was easy to get covered in a layer of dirt and dust but she was in no way a dirty person and the layer of filth that was coming off of her at the moment was just plain disgusting. She took in a deep breath and dunked her head under the water, letting her whole body stay submerged until her breath ran out. It felt so good to take a bath.
Kate used the bar of soap to wash her hair and body three times before she deemed the water no longer usable and regretfully pulled herself from the tub. She bent over and unplugged the drain, watching, listening, as the dirty water swirled down, gurgling through a pipe and into the gutter that ran down the side of the house and into the sewers. It was amazing. Wrapped in the softest, fluffiest towel Kate had ever felt in her life, she practically danced across the room, trying to keep her bare feet off of the cold tile floor as much as possible. She grabbed the last set of clean clothes from her bag and wrapped the towel around her head as she proceeded to get dressed. Mirta, the housekeeper, had gathered up all of her dirty clothes with a tsk after drawing her bath earlier. The woman had mumbled something, in a heavily accented voice, about either having them cleaned or burned, as she had bustled her way out the door. Kate wasn't sure if she wanted to know which.
The sheriff pulled on her stockings and long johns before dressing in a pair of chocolate brown slacks and a dark pink button down with small white embroidered flowers on it. She took her time tucking it into the waistline of her pants, adjusting it until it looked and felt perfect. It was one of her best shirts, barely even worn. She glanced up as she pulled a hairbrush from her bag and started slightly when she saw her reflection staring back at her. They had a mirror? She rolled her eyes at her own at her own naivety. Of course they had a mirror, she had just missed it when she had come into the room earlier. She stared at her reflection for a moment longer before shaking her head and began running the brush through her impossibly long chestnut hair. She debated briefly pulling it back in a braid before deciding to forgo the plaited hairstyle in favor of letting it hang free. The strands would don a slight curl as they dried, causing it to bounce slightly.
Finally, she lowered herself to the floor, sitting cross-legged on the cool tile as she used her still damp towel to polish her boots. Kate ran the cloth over the beaten and battered leather until she was satisfied at the level of shine. She bit her lip and her eyes widened as she held up the towel after she was finished. Streaks of dirt marred the once perfectly white fluffy cloth. Mirta definitely would not be happy about that. Kate looked at it for another minute before shrugging and stuffing it into her bag. She would wash it and return it later. Quickly, she stuffed her stocking clad feet into her, now, cleaner boots and gathered up her belongings before exiting the gorgeous bathroom.
Kate looked around the hallway as she made her way back to the staircase. Paintings of landscapes and portraits donned the white walls. Her boots clomped quietly on the wooden floor. She was standing at the top step of the staircase, just out of view of the entry, when she heard the front door creak open and Alexis call out as the girl scampered towards it.
"Father! Guess who's here!"
"Well," Castle drew out, with a chuckle. "I already know your grandmother moved in, whether I like it or not and Gina is here getting ready everything ready for the party this evening…"
Kate bit her lip through a smile as she chest tightened as the sound of Alexis's impatient huff and Ricks teasing laughter floated up to her. She hadn't realized how much she had truly missed them.
"Come on, Father. Just guess. Please?" Alexis begged.
"Oh, I don't know. The Pope?"
Kate chose that moment to round the corner into view, swallowing down her sudden nervousness. She paused, after descending a couple of steps, as she felt his eyes on her and lifted her head until her bright green eyes met his equally expressive blue ones. They stood there for a long moment, both too afraid to smile as they took in the sight of each other.
"Kate," Castle breathed out, his eyes still glued to hers.
"Hey, Castle," she responded as she found the strength to finish making her way down the stairs.
She stopped in front of him and he stared at her for a moment, his hand coming up hesitantly to cup her cheek, like he didn't know if he expected her to be real or not.
Kate wasn't sure if it was a question or a statement of fact, but she nodded anyway. She was here. "I got here as fast as I could, once I received your letter."
Rick nodded again, his hand still touching her cheek, tentatively. Suddenly he snapped into motion and drew her into a bone-crushing hug that put Alexis's one from earlier to shame. She found her arms drawing up to wrap around his middle. Her face snuggled into the crook of his neck and she breathed him in- the smells of the city mixed with his normal scent. Tears prick at her eyes as she tried to blink them away. Oh, how she had missed him.
As quickly as she had felt herself being engulfed in the embrace, she felt herself being released as Gina's voice floated through the house.
"Richard? Is that you?"
Kate took a step back and all three of them stood slightly awkwardly, Kate staring intently at her shoes, as the blonde woman entered the room.
"Gina, " Castle started. "I take it you have met Kate?"
Gina, once again, looked Kate over, this time with better-hidden contempt as she nodded her head at the woman. "Yes, but I do believe we were interrupted before we could be properly introduced."
"Well, Gina, this is Sheriff Katherine Beckett. Kate this is Gina Cowell, my fiancé." Rick shifted uncomfortably at the final revelation.
"So, this is the Sheriff Beckett you are basing your little novel on. Richard, somehow you managed to leave out the part where Sheriff Beckett wasn't a man, didn't you?"
Kate ducked her head and suppressed a smile. This was going to be interesting.
Castle's mouth opened to form a reply, but once again Alexis interrupted. God, that girl had great timing.
"Sheriff Beckett can stay here, right Father? We have the extra room."
Both Castle and Gina looked between Alexis's excited face and Kate's worried one.
"I can go find a boarding house if it is a problem. I have a few dollars I can spare and I am sure I could barter for a room if needed."
Gina opened her mouth, probably to state that that finding a room would be a fantastic idea, but Castle spoke first. "Of course you can stay here."
Kate watched as a smile blossomed over Alexis's faces, Castle looked between her and Gina nervously, and Gina's jaw snapped shut. Oh, this was definitely going to be interesting.